That is Hesychia. In Greek, the word means “rest.” In Orthodox Spirituality, it is the practice of inner silence, or the practice of solitude. Not loneliness, but inner peace in the presence of God.
I struggle daily with a sense of being alone. To be completely honest here, my wife once asked me “What’s the worst part of being alone?” My reply was, “There’s no one to keep the demons at bay.”
This is a lie. A lie that demons want us to believe. Our society today is the complete antithesis of silence. There’s noise everywhere. On the rare occasions we do leave the city and find ourselves in the wide open country, the silence is foreign and disturbing.
Yet this silence is important for us. It teaches us to meditate. And it should bring us to quiet contemplation of Christ.
“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear” (Coniaris pg. 230).
I have struggled with depression and loneliness since high school. I’m the quiet one in the group, trying not to be noticed, but afraid of being alone. To hear these words, that Orthodox Spirituality requires the practice of silence, the practice of solitude, was sheer terror.
“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.” ~ St. Theophan the Recluse
“Silence is the sacrament of the world to come; words are the instrument of this present age.” ~ St. Isaac the Syrian.
“Hesychia reaches its summit in love…When we reach the point of true love for God, as we see Him in our neighbor, then we have reached the true meaning and purpose of stillness.” (Coniaris pg 236)
Admittedly this is something that I still find myself not able to bring myself to do. It’s a daily mental battle that I lose more often than I win. But I now know the importance of fighting this battle and seeking opportunities for stillness.
Orthodoxy doesn’t require you to be perfect. It’s about approaching theosis with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and to find ourselves asking Christ for mercy every day.
Philokalia literally means, love of the beautiful. This book will not make me a better Christian. But it pointed me the path that is available for all of us when we open ourselves up to practicing spiritual disciplines. I have not attained perfection, but I know where to look, and it is in Christ Jesus.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.